The botanical and zoological adventures of Alfred Swift.
As a botanical and zoological artist, Alfred Swift is fascinated by the natural world. Growing up in rural, 19th century Holland, he was a quiet child, often alone with his sketchbook or dissecting plant and fruit specimens through a magnifying glass. Now a young scholar, Alfred works as a researcher for the university. His quiet daily life consists of cataloguing and catergorising small insect species and illustrating taxidermied creatures for the university’s historical zoological records. However, on June 26th 1839, Alfred’s life is thrown in a very different direction.
Magnus Finch, the university’s most esteemed explorer and researcher has, unfortunately, been eaten by a bear during his travels through North America. The problem remains that the southern states have not yet been catalogued, and as the only other researcher in the department, Alfred is swept onto a ship and sent on his way.
Two months later, and following a long and arduous journey over sea and land, Alfred finds himself in rural Alabama where he is to begin his studies. Accustomed to his usual organised workspace and stationary subjects, he is understandably alarmed when his first drawing of a fruit tree is rudely interrupted by a sounder of wild boar stampeding through the copse. Likewise, as he attempts to fill his flask from a nearby stream, he is confronted by an angry deer, or when leaping in the fields with his butterfly net, a hawk takes a fancy to his precious catch. These were just the first of many precarious encounters; his primary lessons in the beauty, power and danger found in the wilderness.
Over the next 4 years, Alfred travels alone on foot through several states, and catalogues the species he encounters as best he can. He discovers rare and exotic fruits, brushes with death on several occasions, and comes face to face with magnificent and ferocious beasts. Here, we are lucky enough to read excerpts and view sketches from his handbook, compiled throughout his adventure.
Seeing the plight of their fellow creatures while they themselves still roam free, two courageous street dogs can take the sorry sight no longer, and they daringly sneak into the tent with a plan. While one distracts the market seller, the other dashes the keys from his belt with one swift nip. Masters of evading capture, the street dogs toss the keys between them while leading the angry seller on a merry dance around the souk. They skilfully lose him in the commotion, and rush back to the tent to unlock their comrades. The magnificent leopard slowly realises his freedom, and like a balloon filling with air, the life and vibrancy surge back into his body. With a wink to his emancipators, he launches himself into the streets, tearing through market stalls and slashing at tents as he goes. Explosions of colour punctuate the sky as he tosses pots of powdered spices and pigment dyes into the air. As the mischievous street dogs continue their quest, they release the great ostrich from his ties, making sure to stand well back once he is free. The ostrich bends down to earnestly thank his new friends with a swift nod of the head, scuffs his foot in preparation and bursts from the tent in an eruption of feathers. He hurtles down the path, weaving and lacing his way between stalls, smashing glass and crashing silverware as he goes. By this time, the wily street dogs are nowhere to be found. Delighted with their success, but not free of danger, they may also have found several powerful allies when they need them most.
As he absent-mindedly operates the pulley system, the young warden is distracted and tired. The iron-barred doors begin to creak and raise, and before he can fathom his mistake, all the beasts of The Tower are released. A cacophony of excited cries and shrieks rings out, reverberating around the stone courtyard. The warden swiftly flees, fearing the animal’s wrath for their years of misery at the hands of The Crown. The King’s lion lets out an almighty roar, before setting off over the cobbles at quite a pace, lashing out at any object in his path. He is closely pursued by the tigress, bewildered and confused, but ecstatic and elated to be free. The zebra is a little more cautious in her approach; She gently steps out of her enclosure, sniffing and pawing at the ground. The reason for her apprehension becomes apparent when, from behind her flank, a set of unsteady, spindly legs appear. She has a foal in tow, and she knows this release may be his only chance of safety. With a toss of the head and a flick of the tail, she bravely leads her young into the unknown. Above their heads, bursting forth from the aviary, the parrots sing and squabble. Confined to their enclosure for many years since their capture, they have been too cramped to fly or even fully stretch out. Now, they swoop and twirl about in sheer joy at their situation, calling to those too afraid to leave their stalls. Their jewel colours glimmer and shine, and they fly low through the passages of The Tower, seeking their escape. The beasts of the menagerie follow the parrots’ song and are lead dancing through the halls to The Jewel House. They crash their way through the precious artefacts, gathering adornments as they twist and twirl, out through Traitor’s Gate and on into the parks of London town.
This collection references Victorian zoological and botanical illustrators such as John James Audubon, Maria Sibylla Merian and Albertus Seba, along with the courageous explorers who ventured into unknown lands in the hope of discovering new and exotic species. The collection also focuses on the Fraktur folk art movement in 19th century America; a movement started by Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s.
View the collection illustrations in progress, and see how the drawings transform into detailed and intricate scarf designs. Sabina creates a story for each collection, as shown below, which is then illustrated and narrated through her elaborate handiwork.
Welcome to our our Autumn / Winter 2018 Campaign, The Naturalist's Handbook.
Photographer: Kurtiss Lloyd
Model: Kelsey Martinovich
MUA: Daniella Patella
Assistants: Victoria Episcopo and Johanna Rodriguez
Special Thanks: Philip Treacy
Shop the Collection
A range of beautiful fabrics are available for each design, from classic silk twill to our sumptuous signature wool and silk blend. Each piece is printed and hand finished by artisans in the UK.